Archive for August, 2009

Buying Real Estate in Panama

Missed the ‘real estate’ boat?

Retiring to Panama
If you missed the boat with real estate in Costa Rica, Mexico and Southern Ireland then NOW is the time to get on board and buy property in Panama! Not only that but you get to live in one of the most desirable countries in the world! Panama currently has an under valued property market BUT prices are beginning to rise fast as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. To give you an example the average price of homes in Panama City has risen from $1780/m2 ($178/sq ft) in 2006 to $2890/m2 ($289/sq ft) in 2008. This is a 25% increase p.a. pretty impressive when you compare it to what is happening in the USA or Europe!

Property in Panama is booming. Why?

Quite simply it is a matter of supply and demand. More and more people want to live there or invest there! And it is easy to understand why that is! First and foremost it is affordable (you can still buy an acre of sea front land on Bocas del Toro for $35,000 or even a home for $95,000! Really, I’m not kidding! On top of this the climate is pleasant and varied, the country is incredibly beautiful, the dollar is weak (great for people buying property in GBP or Euro) and the cost of living is satisfyingly low, the country is very safe, there is a modern infrastructure and great telecoms, there is good health care (click here for more on Health), getting residency is easy, the people are friendly, English is understood almost everywhere, it has the second largest private banking sector after Switzerland and short term rental returns are between 10-15%. The economy is also on the up and up as the country attracts more money through the extension of the canal and from a 25% increase every year in tourism as well as the growth of the Free Trade Zone – second only in importance to Hong Kong. Panama is one of the best places in the world for retirees today with one of the world’s best discount programs which offers up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor’s visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares. Not only this, but there is so much to do there: fishing, diving, surfing, walking, bird watching, canoing, sailing etc. And there are other incentives for foreigners to spend time here, invest on real estate here … or retire here. For example: newcomers who buy or build a new house don’t pay property taxes for 20 years, residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income (very handy!), tourism investments have 20-year exemptions from import duties, fees for construction materials and equipment, and income, real estate and other taxes.

Different Kinds of Homes in Panama

Panama offers all kinds of real estate. City condos with ocean views, homes in resort communities in the cooler coffee growing highlands, properties on the Caribbean and Pacific islands and beaches and villas in golf resort communities are Panama’s most popular real estate buys for foreigners seeking a second home or to retire. In all the same places, there are also real estate investment opportunities.

Good advice

Panama Beach Here is some good advice on buying real estate in Panama: Firstly it is important to know that foreigners, whether residents or non-residents, enjoy the same rights and privileges when purchasing and selling real estate as do Panamanian citizens. Secondly, selling or promoting Real Estate in Panama without a license is illegal. Licensed real estate agents have a driver license photo size ID issued by the Ministry of commerce and the Panama technical real estate board with their name, license number, and expiration date. Ask to see it if you are unsure about who you are dealing with. If you are looking to buy real estate in Panama it is important to know how the whole process works so that you don’t make mistakes.

For more excellent advice on buying real estate in Panama….

Continue with this article and learn more

Understanding the Difference Between Titled and Right of Possession Property in Panama

Titled property has a title in your or your company’s name and Right of Possession (ROP) means you have a right to reside on the land and to transfer this right. It is the same for foreign buyers or Panamanians.For a full description of the two ways of owning property in Panama go to Property Law


A little know law could save you a fortune…

According to Jessica Ramesch, The Panama Insider, International Living: “A little-known law in Panama means that you can get financing on your Panama residence at very low interest rates. The law, due to expire at the end of the year, qualifies buyers of certain homes for mortgage interest rates of 2% to 3%. Yes, there are conditions. The property must be a new build, your primary residence in Panama, and cost no more than $62,500…although local lobbies have been pushing to increase this to $82,000. The government has previously rejected raising the threshold, but now the minister of housing is promising to back an increase. This is good news for city-dwellers in particular, where it is becoming impossible to find property for less than $62,500. Looking to live like a local and save as much as possible? Compared with a traditional mortgage (current rates in Panama are 6.75% to 7.25%), this law could save you thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the year, particularly if the threshold is increased”. The editor of International Living magazine liked what she discovered about Panama so much that she moved herself and her family there in 2007.

Property Tax in Panama

For full information on taxation for land and property in Panama go to Panama Tax

Panama City

Beach in Bocas, Panama Panama City currently still has an undervalued real estate market; however as has happened in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Ireland, prices have been rising as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. As a potential real estate investor, there are several areas to consider where you will find maximum growth opportunities. There are many residential districts in and around Panama City. Beautiful condos with fantastic ocean views are available in price ranges to suit all pockets. Many have the use of a pool, spa, gym and children’s play area. The most beautiful condominium towers like “Megapolis” and “Yacht Club” are being constructed on Balboa avenue right on the ocean. Beneath Balboa avenue there is another high class condominium area called Marbella overlooking Panama bay: near movies, restaurants and shopping. Bordering Marbella is a residential and commercial district called Obarrio with trendy restaurants, clothing shops and high end boutiques. This is a favored embassy area. Adjacent to Marbella is a luxury residential district called Punta Paitilla. This is an extremely dense area of high rise condos even by NYC or Singapore standards. Punta Pacifica, next door to Paitilla, is a brand new area where ultra luxury condominiums are sprouting from the ground with average units in the 1000 to 4000 square foot range. This is where ultra modern buildings such as the Dupont Towers and Ocean Aire will be constructed. The size, quality and conveniences of these properties will often equate to a property worth about 4 to 15 times their value in the USA. In most areas in Panama City, you can still find apartments around $150,000 like the W Tower, but be sure to check out the location before you buy, as in all big cities some areas have advantages or disadvantages that are not immediately apparent to a newcomer. The district of “San Francisco” is more “middle-class” and offers excellent housing value. This district is perhaps 2-3 miles from the city center and is considerably quieter. A newer three bedroom condo with say 1500 square feet, with a modest ocean view, could be purchased here in the $150,000 to $250,000 range like CaboMarzo. This area has a wonderful walking and jogging park. Bella Vista is hosting some wonderful projects like Bella Mar South and Bella Mar North. El Dorado is still another high quality residential, commercial and shopping area close to downtown with relatively more expensive homes and condos. As you might imagine, there are many other quality residential districts around and about Panama City. One US style development called Costa del Este has hundreds of homes and ocean view condos in the $300,000 to $950,000 range. It is located just outside the city, en route to the Tocumen International Airport. As the world economy deepend into recession there is a feeling that some of the new condo style high-rises being built in the city such as at Punta Pacifica or Punta Patailla are over priced and it may be advisable to wait until mid 2008 to see how the wind blows. There are more than 30,000 units about to come onto the market and this may be way over what the investor or end user can handle right now. On the other hand there is an under supply of office space and the price of offices has risen 40% since last year and is still rising. It could be an intersting project to buy up residential space in the city and convert it to offices.

Casco Viejo (Panama City) Property

Casco Viejo Panama Casco Viejo is a gorgeous, incredibly charming Colonial style town facing Panama City that as it gets bought up and restored, will offer the biggest returns on real estate investment than anywhere else in Panama as it becomes one of the most sought after parts of the city. Right now the areas above 10th Street are considered dangerous and one should still be careful at night anywhere in Casco. In 1998, Casco Viejo was recognized by UNESCO and the United Nations as a site of world interest, due to the physical and universal aspects of this historical location. It is located at the Panama Canal, just minutes outside Panama City and is a true cultural gem. Reminiscent of the French Quarter of New Orleans or perhaps Havana, Casco Viejo is the oldest city on the Pacific coast of the America. When the French tried to build the Panama Canal in 1881, Casco Viejo was where they lived. So Casco Viejo is filled with French balconies and French architecture which overlaps into Spanish. The Caribbean vibe crept in over the years, making this one of the most interesting architectural and cultural sites in the world. For those seeking a unique, romantic lifestyle or who have a passion for historic architecture and renovations, Casco Viejo is the spot. If you like taking coffee on a rustic balcony overlooking the ocean, Casco Viejo is for you. Casco Viejo has become a major tourist destination for those visiting Panama. Terrific photographic opportunities exist, particularly for those interested in architectural structures. A cafe culture mixed with deep Afro-Caribbean vibe is only one way to describe the highly eclectic mix of artists, foreigners and locals who choose to call this area home. Ultra hip night clubs, restaurants and whisky bars were the first investments to help revive this area. Beautifully restored loft apartments and other historical buildings, along with the Presidential Palace and National Theatre make this the most landmark-rich area in the country. With its colonial architecture, ocean views, views that look back upon the impressive city skyline, the America’s bridge, the Causeway. There is so much to take in the eye almost doesn’t know where to focus. We really cannot imagine many other places in the world where a rooftop BBQ would have a better backdrop.The property values in some parts of Casco remain somewhat depressed due to the fact that its residents are primarily squatters who have remained behind in buildings abandoned by landlords disgruntled due to rent controls. However, as the area is revitalized the prices will inevitably skyrocket and already show signs as properties come onto the market with 6 zeros. The limited size and number of potential buildings to restore ensures that the limited market will force a stead clime of prices. There is a great opportunity here for buying, restoring and reselling. To give you an example you can buy a 305m2 shell of a historic building for $265,000 while a restored 2 bedroom 100m2 apartment in such a building would cost you the same. Rental for a one bedroom apartment in a good historical building can be as high as $1,500 or more. Not only this but purchase and restoration of properties in this area receive incentives from the government in the form of tax exemptions and discounted mortgages. Even your rent is a tax deductible expense.

Old Panama Canal Zone Property

Panama Canal There are many real estate investment opportunities in the old Panama Canal Zone. After the U.S. military departed Panama at the end of 1999, they left behind a vast amount of land, buildings and residential structures. Many sharp developers have snapped up these properties and have begun transforming them into residential and commercial developments. The residential area of Albrook (formally Albrook Air force Base) is home to some of Panama’s most beautiful suburban homes. It features various parks and green areas, beautiful tropical gardens, and several schools (including St. Mary’s, an English speaking school). Also within Albrook one can find such amenities as restaurants including several which deliver, a bakery, banks, Blockbusters, Arrocha (local pharmacy chain) medical and vet clinics, as well as an El Rey Supermarket. Albrook is also home to a small international airport and full sized-shopping mall. Clayton has the Ciudad Del Saber (city of knowledge) which is a former military base converted to a tax free zone for any education oriented businesses. ILISA, a famous Spanish Language school in Costa Rica, recently made the move to this zone. We like this area for investment for two reasons: The location is good – it’s close to everything. Panama City is just 5 minutes away; the bridge heading to the beaches is 5 minutes, as is Casco Viejo. Yet this area feels very lush and residential despite being so close to the city. We also like it because it provides Suburban Living. The Former Canal Zone is the first true U.S. style suburb in Panama as it was built by North Americans FOR North Americans. Although it is very near the city it is an oasis of green yards, winding roads and parks. There is more spacing between homes and houses in this area are generally built to U.S. standards. It appeals to Americans!

Bocas del Toro Property

Beach Panama Bocas Del Toro is one of the last affordable pieces of heaven left in the Caribbean, and the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro is stunning. Palm fringed islands, white sandy beaches – in fact, Bocas has everything you ever imagined for the picture perfect tropical retreat to hang your hammock. The real estate opportunities for beach front properties, teak plantations, and island hideaways are here in abundance. Caribbean beach front property at prices that are still affordable is too good an opportunity to dismiss. Lots here start as low as $32,000! Wow! In the Bocas region you can buy whole islands, huge tracts of ocean front land for developement as well as small lots on which to build your home in paradise.

Boquete Property

Boquete, Panama

Boquete has a perfect spring-like climate at an elevation of a little over 3000 ft., with clean air, clear water and a friendly community. On the lush green hillsides gourmet coffee is grown and often the aroma of roasting coffee wafts through the town. If you love Colorado, Oregon or British Colombia, you will love Boquete. If you like beer you will love it too. A bottle of beer in a bar costs only 35c! The cost of property here can vary enormously depending on the location and availability of access and utility supplies. Land can still be found in outlying areas for less than a dollar a square meter but would probably require the installation of roads and power and water lines. Property closer to town can be priced from $10 to $100 per square meter depending on location and views. You can buy a picturesque 2500ft home for $65,000. Building costs vary according to requirements; a home with high end US style finishes and fittings can vary from $50 to $75 per square foot. Costs for simpler construction using cheaper materials can be much lower. There are few completed homes for sale and the rental market is one of demand rather than supply. Rental property is therefore a good investment here.

Chiriqui Property

The Chiriquí Gulf: The Lost Coast” of The Republic of Panama, located on the Pacific Ocean in the Chiriquí Lowlands near the city of David is accessible by land, sea, and air. It is perfect for both retirement and investment in real estate. This gulf is famous for dozens of little islands and for three huge national parks, world class fishing, scuba diving and boating. It is among the most picturesque regions of Panama, making it a wonderful place to retire to. David has mooring available as well as a concrete pier and boat launch with dry dock storage facilities for boats of 30 feet or less in length. Development in real estate in this area, with an emphasis on Boca Chica and Boca Brava, has been taking off fast. Several sport fishing businesses have opened for business and a 5 star Sport Fishing lodge will be opened within a year on the one of the prettiest beaches in the Paridas Archipelago, at 20 minutes from Boca Chica. A dive operation is under construction, and several small hotels will be built in the area of Boca Chica and Boca Brava soon. A large reforestation project is being planted as we speak. Sailing is getting ever more popular in these beautiful ‘island speckled’ waters. In this area there are a number of private islands where investors can purchase real estate. If you have a bucket load of money and like your space you could buy a 46 hectare farm on an island with 1 kilometer of beach all for you, for just $2,500,000. This region remains pristine with white sand beaches, dense tropical forest and abundant wildlife. The tourism potential in this area is huge which means prices of real estate are set to rise.

Anton Property

Anton Valley: Ever thought about retiring to a crater of a volcano? This picturesque town sits in the crater of an extinct one! At 1000m above sea level its cool, spring-like climate makes it an excellent resort area, a longtime favorite retreat with the Panama City elite. Anton is known for golden frogs, square trees and a sleeping Indian girl awaiting her lover! No wonder it is popular with tourists too! Year-round average high temperature is 20° C (68° F), and the average nighttime minimum is a comfortable 16° C (61° F), with little variation between summer and winter Famous for its Indian market that occurs each Sunday featuring handcrafts, fresh fruit and vegetables and beautiful native plants, El Valle is a colorful mix of locals, Panamanian tourist and foreign retirees.

El Valle is approximately 2 hours from Panama City by good roads; look for the right turn off the Inter American Highway. Travel agencies in Panama City sometimes offer day excursions to visit El Valle. There are beautiful water falls, a mountain swimming spot and verdant forests filled with beautiful birds for the visitor to enjoy plus a man made canopy ride that provides a bird’s eye view of the tropical forest. There are many exciting things to do in El Valle such as biking, hiking or horseback riding in the mountains, viewing water falls or taking a dip in a mountain pool.

Not only this but there beaches down the mountain from El Valle just 30 minutes drive away You can enjoy the beach during the day and retreat to the cool mountains for a refreshing night’s sleep. Perfect! If you want peace and quiet and country life Anton Valley may be the retirement place for you.

You can buy 5 hectares of flat green land here (for development) for just $160,000. Could be an interesting project?The Azuero Peninsula and Pedasi is often compared to Costa Rica’s’ very desirable region, the Guanacaste province, for its friendly locals, attractive weather and strong Spanish colonial heritage. The only difference being this area is not nearly so well and therefore relatively undeveloped. If you love un-commercialized beaches, mountains and nature there is no place on earth like the Azuero Peninsula. The Azuero Peninsula is characterized by rolling hills, stunning beaches, and a rugged coastline, off which you can find some of the most pristine islands in the country.

Azuero Property

If you want to get away from people and the stress of modern life this could be a retirement heaven for you. The Azuero Peninsula is located about 300km southwest of Panama City and protrudes south into the Pacific Ocean between the Gulf of Panama and the Gulf of Montijo. It is about 60 miles (100 km) from east to west and 55 miles (90 km) from north to south.

One of Panama’s driest regions, the Azuero Peninsula has just two seasons, one golden and dry, the other green and lush. In the golden season (December-May) you will find clear blue skies and crisp offshore breezes, while in the green season (June-November) you can expect intermittent rain and sun to bring out the lushness for which Panama is so famous. This area is one of the most physically stunning in Panama. Because it is remote, there is little development and large, pristine acreages are still available at very reasonable prices. Until it gets discovered prices will no doubt stay fairly low.

You can buy fabulous 1000m beach front lots here for $80,000 or a one bedroom ‘do-er-upper’ just half a block from the sea for $35,000.

The Pacific Coast & Coronado

Just one and a half hours from Panama City on the Pacific coast is Coronado. This is the first gated community created in Panama and is well established with individual private homes set in their own gardens. They range from 9 bedroom mansions on the beach for $3m to very pleasant 3 to 4 bedroom homes on one or to levels for $300,000. There is some new condo highrises currently being built on the beach here for around $350,000 for a three bedroom unit with incredible mountain and sea views. Just after Coronado is Punto Barko which is an area of mostly very up-market private homes on large lots. It is wonderfully quiet and beautiful here.

Just a few kilometers further on is Costa Esmeralda, another gated community again with privately built low-rise homes mostly set within large lots. As an example of price there is a large Mexican villa for sale here for $850,000. It has a main house with three bedrooms and three guest houses with one or two bedrooms each as well as a staff house set within 4000m2.One bay further down the coast is the fabulous new development Rio del Mar. A High-rise resort in a beautiful location.

The Property Market in 2008

Prices for real estate here have doubled and in many cases tripled in the last three years but still a three bedroom apartment in an older building in somewhere central like El Congrejo can be bought for $180,000, a lot of land to build your own house can be bought in beautiful Bocas del Toro islands for $35,000 or a 60 acre farm can be bought for $250,000 on the mainland with ocean access.

Panama Stock Exchange

Panama City Stock Exchange

Since its creation in 1990, the Panama Stock Exchange has been an important part of the development of Panama’s role as a regional financial centre. Most transactions centre on government bonds.

The exchange is the only dollar-based securities market in the region. The main corporate candidates for listing are the many companies of Central America and the northern countries of South America that have strong balance sheets but are too small to issue shares in New York.

How Many Companies Listed on the Panama Stock Exchange?

There are about 100 companies listed on the exchange. Trading turnover during 2004 was about US$3.5bn. Capitalisation of the 23 companies making up the Exchange’s index was about US$4 bn at the end of that year.

Shareholders in the Panama Stock Exchange

Bolsa de Valores de Panamá, S. A., (the Panama Stock exchange) is a corporation organized under the Laws of the Republic of Panama. Its shareholder base is made up of the main local banks, including Banco Nacional de Panamá (National Bank of Panama) as well as commercial, insurance and industrial corporations and concerns, businessmen, professionals and stockbrokers.

There is a Board of Directors, made up of nine principals and nine substitutes. Additionally, five committees oversee the Panama Stock Exchange: the Executive Committee, the Technical Committee, the Trading and Internal Regulations Committee, the Stock Market Operations Oversight Committee, the Audit Committee.

The Panama Stock Exchange’s operations are performed through qualified intermediaries who, with the PST’s prior authorization, are entitled access to the floor when in session.

These people or stockbrokers, act on behalf of corporations which have bought seats on the Exchange.

Transactions can be cleared exactly three days after the transaction (t+3), or at Term whenever the parties agree to deliver the money or securities, or both, at a future date, within the limits set by the Board of Directors, notwithstanding the fact that the parties may decide to settle the operation before the expiration of the agreed term.

Electronic Trading

Electronic trading began to replace the open outcry system in 2003, and the Exchange now operates an electronic trading system with remote trading terminals for all SE seat holders. In certain special circumstances where the electronic system fails, the BVP has adopted open outcry trading norms for used on the floor with a physical presence of the participants.

Retirement in Panama

Panama is perfect for retirement

Looking for a place to lay your Hat? Panama is it!

Video from International Living on Retiring in Panama

  Panama is fast becoming one of top destinations on the planet to retire. There is simply no better word to describe this lush, plush Caribbean country, honored by International Living as the “World’s No.1 Retirement Haven” for the fifth year in a row!

The May/June 2008 issue of Modern Maturity magazine rated Boquete in Panama, the fourth best destination in the world. International Living rates Panama even higher on their list at No.1. As well as the cool lush highlands of Boquete, Panama has a perfect location for every taste; from a cosmopolitan capital city to palm fringed beaches, cool mountain climates and tropical resorts. However, the best thing is that it is affordable both to live as well as buy real estate here!

In terms of variety of property perfect for spending those later years there is something for everyone here: condos with security and all sorts of on-site facilities, modern super luxury penthouses in the center of town, pretty ocean front homes with a jetty and a boat, island hideaways with monkeys and parrots for neighbors or cool sophisticated properties in the mountains with gardens and views over the coffee plantations.

Panama is beautiful. From gorgeous cool mountain retreats like Boquete, to fabulous beachfront property in Bocas, or cosmopolitan city apartments overlooking a stunning harbor in Panama City, the choice is yours. With real estate prices beginning to rise, you also have an opportunity to make a considerable return on your investment if you buy now.

Rental property is in high demand particularly in the highland areas, so even if you are not looking to retire for a while this is an opportunity to get into the market and earn a return on your investment in the meantime.

Want to Retire Early but Can’t Afford to?

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Retirement Package

retire sun in Panama cheap
The Panamanians really know how to treat the older generation! Apart from a whole host of other benefits Panama has one of the most generous national packages in the world for people who are able to retire from work. It includes; Import tax exemption for household goods up to $10,000 Tax exemption to import a new car every two years 25% discounts on utility bills 25% discount on airline tickets and 30% on other transportation 15% discount on loans made in your name 1% reduction on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence 20% discount on doctor’s bills 15% on hospital services if no insurance applies 15% off dental and eye exams 10% discount on medicines 20% discount on bills for professional and technical services 50% discount on entrance to movie theatres, cultural and sporting events 50% discount at hotels during Monday to Thursday, 30% on weekends

The main requirement for qualifying for a
pension ado (retiree) visa is proof of a minimum income of $1000 per month plus an additional $200 for each dependent. This program is not age related provided you have a pension. Foreign residents of Panama, regardless of the type of visa they obtain, who are over the age of 55 years for a woman and 60 years for a man, are entitled to most of the retiree incentives listed above with the exception of the importation of tax free cars.

Big move to Panama

Boquete Baru Volcano Panama

Retiring to Panama is an upward trend.

With a modern infrastructure and a strong north American cultural influence, Panama offers an easy transition from the West. In the next 10 years in the US alone 75-80 million Baby Boomers will reach retirement age. US Government statistics show that most of them will not be able to sustain their current standard of living by relying on savings, assets or pensions. Moving to Panama will allow them to do that. Some are even opting to retire early.

Interest in Panama does not only come from the United States; many Canadians are heading further south than Florida for their “snowbird” sojourns – and staying for retirement. The increasing cost of living, overcrowding and high crime rates in Florida, encourages them to take a slightly longer flight south! A weekly charter flight from Toronto is now scheduled.

The same trend is appearing in the UK and the rest of Europe too. Leaving the home country and moving to somewhere like Panama is starting to seem like a better idea all the time – especially to a generation that has got used to global travel. Living in a beautiful, warm, friendly, far less stressful environment definitely does have its allure! Living and retiring overseas was once an option available only for the wealthy, it is now an affordable and very real option for people who want a quality of life.

The international mainstream press is also waxing lyrical about Panama, articles in National Geographic, Travel and Leisure, New York Times, LA Times Boston Globe and Harpers Bazaar are stimulating interest with descriptions such as “the most beautiful retreat in the world and almost undiscovered” (Harpers). “Known mostly for its canal, Panama is in fact an undiscovered tourist paradise” (Boston Globe). Articles like these ensure that tourists and retirees are discovering Panama at a fast rate of knots.

Why choose Panama?

Retire to the beach in Panama

So why is Panama gaining in popularity among retirees, investors, and part-time expatriates? Not only because of increased publicity – Panama has more amenities, lower costs and lower crime rates than many other traditional retirement locations. In fact Panama’s advantages are unrivalled. Apart from tax advantages, privacy advantages and a considerable retirement package consider the following:

Panama has a stable government and a growing economy

The US dollar is the legal tender. Panama has a stable economy that has been based upon the U.S. Dollar since 1904

Residents pay no tax on foreign earned income

Foreigners can buy and own property in Panama with the same rights and protections as Panamanians citizens.

Tourism investments have exemptions from import duties, construction materials and equipment, income, real estate taxes, etc.

Property tax exemptions apply to all new construction on a sliding scale according to value

English is widely spoken

The US presence in the country for many years has lead to a US style infrastructure with a number of familiar names and businesses

Panama has a number of US standard health care facilities and services with many US trained English speaking doctors available.

Panama has a reliable communications system with fibre optic telephone lines and much of the country has ADSL internet

Panama is one of the best offshore havens in the world

Panama is much cheaper than the US & Europe

The cost of living in Panama is lower than the US and much lower than Western Europe. For example, electricity costs approximately 10-12 cents per kilowatt hour depending on the area, water and trash collection around $7 per month. Direct TV with a wide choice of English language channels is approximately $50 per month.

Locally produced vegetables, meat and fish are priced considerably lower than in the USA although imported items may be slightly higher. The minimum wage for housemaids or gardeners is 88 cents per hour (I’ll have three of those please!!). Local beer at the supermarket costs 30 cents per can, a coffee in a restaurant may be as little as 30 cents.

By retiring in Panama, you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for a buck or two, get your haircut for a couple of dollars, or enjoy dinner for two with a bottle of wine at one of the fines restaurants in Panama City for a mere $30.

Comparing Panama to other Countries

Retirement couple in Panama
Panama has one of the lowest costs of living in all Central and South America. Colombia is cheaper if you don’t mind being an occasional kidnap or robbery victim. Actually many legitimate Colombians have moved to Panama and are setting up businesses here. Honduras is cheaper but there is no infrastructure for medical, phones, internet etc.

Ecuador has little infrastructure but it sure is cheap. Belize isn’t so cheap and has little infrastructure. Costa Rica is not really cheaper and has a serious crime problem plus there are no longer benefits for Expats and you would have to pay income tax on your offshore income like retirement, social security etc in Costa Rica.

Mexico has a serious crime problem with drug gangs executing mayors and police chiefs their first day in office and kidnappings are common. It is debatable if Mexico is cheaper than Panama but they do tax offshore income in Mexico so it is probably more expensive for this reason alone and the crime situation makes it hazardous. You could find some safe areas in rural Mexico but then you have no infrastructure like internet, phones, cell phones, good highways, medical, good water, etc.

So that brings us back to Panama which is the only country that seems to have it all – no taxes on offshore income, extremely low crime (lowest crime rate in Latin America), great food (not good, great), very good internet at USA prices, good phones, good cell phones, cable and satellite TV, friendly people, the ability to buy just about anything you can buy in the USA probably for the same price or less, many consumer goods at a fraction of the USA prices, nice climate, 2.5 hours by plane to Miami and so forth.

Health care for retirees in Panama

Health care is also both inexpensive and modern. Many people considering a retirement in Panama worry about the quality of health care, but such worries are unfounded here. Good-quality health care and modern hospitals are available throughout the country. Many Panamanian doctors are U.S.-trained, and hospital standards are on par with what you would find in North America or Europe. Particularly appealing to those looking to retire in Panama is an important additional advantage: both private health insurance and prescription drugs are readily available and much less expensive than their U.S. equivalents.

Panama is a good investment too…

Now is the perfect time to invest in Panama. The economy is gaining strength in every sector, not just in tourism and real estate. The new administration, under President Martin Torrijos, elected on May 1st 2004 with a strong popular majority, has the momentum to carry out measures to promote growth. The plans to enlarge the Panama Canal, and participate in additional free trade associations, will stimulate the economy still further. Panama’s Colon Free Trade Zone (CFZ), established in 1953, is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and contributes substantially to the country’s economy.

Panama has consistently maintained one of Central America’s highest per capita gross domestic product. The U.S.A. is still the largest user of the Canal and Panama’s foremost trading partner, central banker and is influential regarding its monetary policy.

To encourage long term foreign investment, Panama does not require special permits, authorization or registration to qualify investors. The 1998 Investment Stability Law protects foreign investors for ten years following the registration of an investment, shielding them from changes in tax, customs duties, municipal and labor laws.

Major companies doing business in Panama include Federal Express, DHL, PriceSmart/Costco, Marriott Hotels, Holiday Inn, Sheraton Hotels, Kansas City Southern Railways, Continental, Delta and American Airlines, Warranty Company of the Americas and Hutchison Whampoa, to name but a few. Like it or not you will find just about every US franchise on the streets of the larger cities from McDonalds, Dominos, KFC, Pizza Hut, TGIF to Dunkin Donuts etc; Luxury clothing lines such as Nautica and Liz Claiborne also have stores in Panama City.

Over 80 banks have full service branches here including HSBC, Scotiabank, Dresdner, BNP/Paribas; there are no “brass plate” banks here. Panama is a growing international financial center with good communications and first world amenities.

For more on setting up a business in Panama click here

Where to buy a home in Panama?

Casco Viejo panama
Panama currently has an undervalued real estate market; however as has happened in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Ireland, prices are beginning to rise as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. As a potential real estate investor there are several areas to consider where you will find maximum growth opportunities. Each area has its own special charm and attributes too, depending on what floats your boat!

Panama City

Panama City is an affordable cosmopolitan location for those who prefer city life but fancy a rain forest within the city limits! With a 21st century skyline the high rise buildings tower above the ocean and forest. High class restaurants, first class hotels and fast food outlets, are here for all tastes and pockets.

There are two main real estate opportunities here. Beautiful apartments with fantastic ocean views are available in price ranges to suit all pockets. Many have the use of a pool, spa and children’s play areas. You can still find apartments for less than $150,000.00 but be sure to check out the location before you buy, as in all big cities some areas have advantages or disadvantages that are not immediately apparent to a newcomer.

The jewel of Panama City is Casco Viejo. Don’t be dismayed that many of the buildings are in disrepair, look closer and you will see many remnants of French and Spanish colonial architecture; some properties are gradually being rescued and have become restaurants, bars, studios and small hotels in an area that could well become another New York City Soho. The Presidential Palace and the National Theater are located here as well as a monument to the French who made the first attempt to build a canal.

Purchase and restoration of properties in this area receive incentives from the government in the form of tax exemptions and discounted mortgages. Even your rent is tax deductible expense. In a few years this could be one of the most sought after parts of the city. From apartments to palaces the opportunities are limitless.

For information more on Panama City visit our Panama City Page

Boquete

Boquete, Panama
Boquete in the Chiriqui Highlands has a perfect spring-like climate at an elevation of a little over 3000 ft., with clean air, clear water and a friendly community. On the lush green hillsides gourmet coffee is grown and at times the smell of roasting coffee sends wonderful aromas through the town. If you love Colorado , Oregon or British Colombia, you will love Boquete. The cost of property here can vary enormously depending on the location and availability of access and utility supplies. There are few completed homes for sale and the rental market is one of demand rather than supply. Rental property is a good investment here.

For more on Boquete visit our Boquete Page

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama
Bocas del Toro is one of the last affordable pieces of heaven left in the Caribbean , and the archipelago of Bocas del Toro is stunning. Palm fringed islands, white sand beaches, in fact Bocas has everything you ever imagined for the picture perfect tropical retreat to hang your hammock. The real estate opportunities for beach front properties, teak plantations, and island hideaways are here in abundance. Caribbean beach front property at prices that are still affordable is too good an opportunity to dismiss. Lots here start as low as $32,000.

Other Areas of Panama Suitable for Retirement – The Pacific Coast

Just one and a half hours from Panama City on the Pacific coast is Coronado. This is the first gated community created in Panama and is well established with individual private homes set in their own gardens. They range from 9 bedroom mansions on the beach for $3m to very pleasant 3 to 4 bedroom homes on one or to levels for $300,000. There is some new condo high-rises currently being built on the beach here for around $350,000 for a three bedroom unit with incredible mountain and sea views. Just after Coronado is Punto Barko which is an area of mostly very up-market private homes on large lots. It is wonderfully quiet and beautiful here.

Just a few kilometers further on is Costa Esmeralda, another gated community again with privately built low-rise homes mostly set within large lots. As an example of price there is a large Mexican villa for sale here for $850,000. It has a main house with three bedrooms and three guest houses with one or two bedrooms each as well as a staff house set within 4000m2.One bay further down the coast is the fabulous new development Rio del Mar. A High-rise resort in a beautiful location.

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